Saturday, December 15, 2012

Peer pressure

We keep discussing about the future of our children and show a lot of concern about the same. Sometimes this concern changes into anxiety not only for the parents but the children also. In this tussle of seeking the right way for the future of the children to become secure, we tend to miss on something very important and that is the proper development of the children. More emphasis is given to academic area due to which other important issues are neglected.  The recent incidents in the schools and families are forcing all the stakeholders to rethink and help the children to learn things in a comprehensive way. Though the parents and teachers seem to be spending more time with their children but this is also true that the children of the day are more close to their friends and are willing to do things as suggested or asked by their friends. Some children who present a good demeanour at home tend to behave just opposite in the school and vice-verse. I think even the children of the yester years were also influenced by the peer group but the impact of the parents and the teachers was also equally good and was visible to all. Then why is that now we all feel ignored by the children? Why is it that the child wants to do everything suggested by his/her friend and does not heed to the advice of the parents and the teachers. Though this is not universally true but the fact is that more number of children seems to be ignoring the parents.
To understand the same I met the children of class eighth and discussed with them their views on this issue. Many of them said that they do not follow the advice of their parents and the teachers because of the influence of their friends. They were very clear about this and gave certain absolute reasons for this. Some of them said as the parents always force them to do certain things of their (parents) choice which irritates them more than anything else. One more thing became clear from the discussion that when the children are very young (say from age two to six years) the parents get their response as they want. The children are not able to express their feelings strongly and the parents develop the habit of directing them as they wish. When the children grow-up, they find somebody who allows them to do things as per their liking, for example their friends and as they grow-up, the influence of the friends and the peer group becomes more than that of the elders. The situation becomes grimmer because of the competition created by adults because of high expectations. The children in the school gave an example of taste buds. They said all liked that food only which is approved to be tasty by the taste buds and if not so then we tend to avoid that food. Similarly, the things which are told or said as per the developed thoughts of the children are accepted and followed but if it is contrary to that, then it is retaliated. The children said that as most of the things told by the peer group influences them more, so the parents and teachers suggestions gets diluted. Also, as the technology and electronic gadgets are available in abundance and the social networking sites are able to give the children a platform to be more close to the friends, which again drives them away from the parents and the teachers.
The other aspect discussed with the children was, why some children only behave negatively in the class or the bus? Again the answer was the peer pressure. This was interesting to note that two children were enough to make one child do wrong things whereas so many teachers and the family members could not do the same. So, we have to think seriously that is it the peer pressure only which has changed the things not for good or there has been some lacunae on our part also? I think, we as parents and teachers have also failed on some occasions to make our existence felt by the children. That does not mean that the children are to be given physical punishment however, our actions and words must have the same meaning. If we have to ensure that our children do not fall a prey to peer group pressure (though it is not always negative) then we should be changing ourselves as per the time. Somebody argued that why should children not change? My humble submission would be that they have not seen the past, hence for them it is difficult to compare and change but should be easier for us to do the same. We have to understand whether the interaction which we have with the children is one way or two way and many children said that it was one way as most of the times direction comes from the teachers and the parents. We have to understand our children better than what we have been doing. They are really good and full of energy and this is our responsibility to ensure that they are able to maintain their integrity and honesty protecting themselves from the negatives around. The umbrella in the form of the parents and teachers should be that strong but transparent that our children are able to save themselves from the ever-changing world.
The other thing which was clear from the discussion was that the children want the answer of their queries and if not satisfied, they would not follow you just because of your being teachers or the parents. So, we all must try our level best to answer even those questions which may appear to be uncomfortable to us. I always say that we should be fair in our approach towards our kids and should always think positive for them. Even if at times you have to be little harsh on your child do not think negative then also. This is more for those parents and teachers who think that being strict only will help them to discipline their child. Patience is the best medicine with the parents and the teachers and though it might take some time but if the children are tackled with patience along with positivity then the result will always be good for the children and same for us also. The children love their parents and teachers but as I always say they may not be very good at expressing the same. They do fell bad of their wrong actions and try to correct and improve if given an opportunity. We as adults must ensure that nothing is done which makes the children feel ignored otherwise that will drive them to get away from us and nearer to the ones who may not always guide them for positive deeds. Though the children sometimes misuse the liberty and use freedom as an excuse but that is also the result of our actions. Being a father/mother and the teacher is the best gift God has given to us, so why not to enjoy and cherish the same in spite of feeling helpless or hapless.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behavioural fluctuations

 A widespread idea and a frequent statement which is heard nowadays is that the children of the present day are becoming indiscipline, disobedient, rebellious etc and some corrective steps should be taken at the earliest so that the future of these children and the nation can be secured. It is difficult to say whether this is true or not but when many people think that way so it is important to pay attention and do as required. There are a few who do not agree to this and their views are also important and should be paid an equal attention. We shall talk about it in detail later but before that one more issue is to be considered and understood, the idea of which was explored within the walls of the classroom and I would like to share the same. When a question was put to the children of a senior class as to why do they not want to be teachers, an instantaneous response of one of them was, because the condition of teachers is ‘bad’. I tried to understand the meaning of the word bad in the context used by them. The discussion was quite long and many examples were given by the children but one of the major reasons was, because the children do not obey the teachers. This was a reason implicit enough for the children not wanting to be the teachers in future. Out of the strength of thirty six students only two opined that they did not agree with majority of the children. This was an interesting discussion but the same left me a little disturbed. The uneasiness was because of two reasons. One was what will happen to the future of this nation when no one wants to be a teacher because nothing is possible without good teachers. The second was, if it the teachers only who are responsible for the so called pathetic condition as described by the children so innocently and mentioned earlier. The discussion held within the walls of the classroom was quite lengthy and I tried to make children understand that the condition of the teachers was not ‘bad’ but ‘good’. It was not easy for me to do that when the children had numerous example and incidents. Then they were told that the statement made by majority of them should be reframed and in spite of giving a sweeping statement that the condition of teachers is bad it can be said that the condition of bad teachers is bad and that is true for any profession. The people who are not good irrespective of the profession they are in, they would not be respected and the problems like indiscipline, defiance etc. would crop up. We must understand that the individual and the profession cannot be seen in isolation. They supplement each other and if we have good teachers in teaching profession then the things would be much better. I do not say that there are no good teachers in this profession today. Majority of them even today are good but the problem in the society is negatives are talked about more than the positives. The children agreed to this and gave examples from their own class that some teachers are respected and obeyed by their classmates whereas the others were not obeyed in the same way. This explains it so well that good teachers were respected, are respected and will be respected in future as well.
But while sitting alone and thinking about the same topic, I realized what the children told in the morning might have some logic and I tried to understand the reason behind this habit of the children to act in a little more indiscipline manner in the class and the school than homes. This happens quite often that when the parents of any child are called to the school or informed regarding some problem of the child or any act of indiscipline, the first reaction in majority of the cases is that they cannot believe it because the child was very well disciplined at home. I think they may be right to a large extent because majority of such children show contrary behavior at home and in the school. And one of the reasons for that may be the materialistic environment around them and their lust to acquire and possess all costly and quality things such as motorcycle, mobiles, Laptops and i-pad etc and the list can be quite long. As these are provided by no one else, but parents.  So is it so that just for the sake of this benefit that they try to do everything at home which pleases their parents. I am not very sure of the same but the children at times try to act and behave in an artificial way and try to deceive the parents and themselves both. They know it well that if the parents would not be happy then they may be deprived of the costly things which they want to get from them. This I am stating as there have been many parents who shared with me that they told their son/daughter to sit for study and do their work properly as desired by the parents and then they would be gifted something of their choice. This might have been done by the parents for the sake of making the child sit to study or may be the child just pretends to so. In this way, the child tends to miss his/her natural behavior at home and does most of the things keeping in mind the outcome in terms of freedom to go out and party with friends. We also know that everything in the universe is constant so I think that as the children miss natural behavior at home they tend to do the same more in the school. See, in the past the children had the company of many people at home and the family was not very demanding in terms of academic achievement and high profile jobs. They had enough space to do the things of their liking. Certain things can be classified as acts of indiscipline but these all were natural, and the children used to feel important themselves. Though today also they are given to understand by the parents that they are most important but in actions that does not seem to be happening. When the children are not able to do certain things (not considers being good though that may not be true) they do the same in the school. They want to be heard and their importance recognized by the adults so the best place for them is the school and the adults to face that are the teachers. The quota of not so appreciated actions is completed in the school because the children were not able to do the same at home. So to say that the children of today are more indiscipline than of the yester years, do not appear to be correct. If the children get their space at home and they are allowed to act naturally then such children are appreciated in the schools also because then their behavior is more acceptable than that of others. So my advice to all would be that we should allow our children to grow and behave naturally at home and also in the schools. They should be given appropriate space and importance as individuals. The teachers must understand that they have to perform a very important part in the life of the children and understand their needs to act accordingly.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reforms: Rejuvenating or repressing

Central board of secondary education has introduced many reforms in the education system at school level. The board has been striving hard to make the school education an interesting and enjoyable experience for the school going children and at the same time trying to ensure that the children are taught the skills and values of life. The assessment and evaluation system has undergone a complete change especially up to the secondary level. Most of the people involved with the school education including the teachers and the parents feel that these changes were long awaited. But at the same time many of them also feel that the changes introduced are at a fast pace without giving sufficient time to the stakeholders to understand and comprehend them. Well this is exactly the case when the mother of a child gave a fixed diet to him for a long time and when she realized that some change should be introduced (because change is the law of life) so she cooks many varieties of food for him without realizing that so much food and that too so quickly will not be digested and even the most nutritious food would cause a lot of problems to the child and this precisely seems to be happening with the changes and the reforms introduced in the recent past in education system. I shared this worry and observation earlier also with other learned people. They opined that the reforms being introduced are good but the pace is fast. You may recall that the CCE pattern was introduced in the middle of the academic session due to which many teachers, parents and the students found it difficult to understand and follow the same in the right way. And the same style continues even today. We do not understand why the changes should be forced on the stakeholders whenever the people in position think about them. As stated earlier also that the changes introduced are not questioned but the manner in which that is done leaves everyone worried. Though the training programs were conducted for the head of the schools, teachers and in some cases for the parents also when the CCE was in introduced in 2009. But that was done in a hurry with a large number of people gathered at one place and as it was done in a hurry, so some of the trainees were also not very clear about the concept. Moreover, the concept of formative and summative assessment was new to many stakeholders. The most confusing one, has been to understand the formative assessment. This I discussed before also that formative assessment is the tool in the hands of the teacher to know how much learning has taken place in the mind of the learners and whether the teacher has been able to fulfill the objectives of the teaching learning process. But this has been taken by the people as terminal test to be conducted for the whole class on a particular day and in a particular way. The formative assessment may be left to the teachers’ discretion because the same is to be conducted almost every day for improved learning of the learner. But I think CBSE has used it in its own way for the sake of uniformity and some kind of transparency. This gives me a feeling of lack of trust between the schools and the organization introducing the reforms and this has valid reasons for it being so. The board cannot act as police for quite long because no reforms will yield desirable positive results until implemented honestly by those responsible for the proper implementation. We should be realistic in our assessment towards the proper implementation and benefit of the same to the learners not in short term for them but for the nation in the long term. We should not think about the needs of the learners in isolation but with the future requirements of the country because the individuals cannot survive if we do not serve our nation. So the education and evaluation system should be such that our country remains capable of facing the future challenges. The other important aspect to be kept in mind by the policy makers should be that any change brought in should be based on some research done by an indigenous group of people and not by somebody from and in foreign country. We must see our requirement based on the outcomes of the research and the reforms should be proposed and debated upon before implementation. Education may not be taken as the sample of bridge but as a whole bridge because few people saying “yes” for something does not necessarily make the new thing better than the earlier one.
As I mentioned earlier, introducing any change in the mid session should be avoided because that makes no sense at least for that particular term rather raises multiple queries and confusion for everyone. I would like to mention about the concept of problem solving assessment introduced by CBSE from this session (the same was informed to the schools in the month of September 2012). Though the introduction of the PSA is a welcome step but why should it be done separately? Could it not have been the part of the SAs question papers as value added questions have been added? Even if it was to be done, then why the teachers were not given enough time and training to guide the children for the same? You all might be aware that the private publishers have already published books on PSA that are now available in the market. I may be excused for saying the truth that there are many of us (teachers) who are not aware of how to solve many of these problems. The other thing being questioned is, why the PSA in class IX be counted in lieu of FA4? What is the logic behind that? The board is taking all possible decisions and measures trying to help the students but that may not happen in every case. At the same time, the logistic problems of the schools should also be realized and be kept in mind. In class XI, the PSA result will be reflected and the same could have been done for class IX also. This I am suggesting because many children are taking the PSA as additional burden on them and they will be forced to study and learn extra for that. So are we increasing or reducing the stress on the children? I should not be misunderstood that I am not for the changes and reforms, but my concern is the manner in which it is being done. When we force our children to eat something which they do not want, the doctors also say that it may not prove to be very good for their health though the food might be full of proteins and vitamins.  But when the children are told about the positives of having that kind of food, they will enjoy the same and be benefitted the most. Similarly, the reforms introduced (which are really good) should be appropriately spaced and be implemented by making all stakeholders aware about the advantages and the positive outcomes. The PSA would benefit the teachers and the students a lot but the same could have been introduced once everyone was aware about it. As I always say that these are my thoughts and I would like to be educated where to make the corrections. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Surrender selfishness

Newspaper reports regarding the stress and tension among the youth of the country is a cause of concern for everyone. This is causing a lot of disturbance in the mind of the parents and the teachers and they are trying to find ways so that the same can be handled effectively. When a news is reported that a young person succumbed to suicide because of some reasons which may not be known immediately, it does not leave anyone without worrying about why is it actually happening. Why are the children and the youth of the country taking their own lives? While discussing the same with the parents and the teachers, it was concluded that it is stress. Though stress may be the major cause of a large number of suicides, but the pattern of the life which is drawing the people to live in isolation and the selfish nature (selfishness appears to be on the increase) is also an important factor for the people resorting to such extreme means. I was trying to understand whether the parents and the other family members are indirectly teaching the children to become selfish?  I would like to cite a few examples here. Suppose there is joint family in which there are parents and grandparents and a few children. It has been found that if the child falls sick then almost all the members try to look after the sick child, which becomes a primary concern and is really required. But the situation may not be the same when the grandfather or the grandmother falls sick. In this situation, most of the times the children are told to  study and not worry about the sick person. This is not true for the grandparents only but the same applies to the situation when the parents fall sick. The children are given to understand that for them, studies and their own work is more important than looking after the ill person in the family. This may not be the universal truth but I have seen this happening in many families. The children are indirectly given to understand that for them their studies and growth is more important than anything else. I may sound to be little impolite in mentioning this but pardon me for expressing it as this is the true story of many families. What I want to convey is that the adults at times teach the children to become selfish in their nature which may not be their intention at all. At the same time, the children are not being given opportunity to imbibe the values like tolerance, patience and empathy for the fellow human beings. Right from the beginning they are trained to be successful in life. The meaning of success has been limited to getting good marks/grades in the examination and then getting handsome jobs which fetches them good money and other comforts of the life. Education is made merely as the means of earning bread and butter and not as the process of learning the life skills which will further help the individuals to become better human beings.
The number of suicide cases is on the rise despite the government’s efforts to reduce the stress during the school education days. The central board of secondary education and other educational bodies are trying to introduce reforms so that the children do not encounter stressful situations. The syllabus has been redefined and the examination system is also being made child friendly. As per the newly introduced right to education act, every child will be declared pass up to class eighth. Though this may seem to be a good step taken by the responsible people but we have to see the results of the same. Has it reduced the stress of the children? For the present, the answer will definitely be yes, but what happens in future when the children grow and will have to fight for respectable position in the society but the competition becomes very tough as there are not enough opportunities available for everyone(as per their desire and not the qualification).  One child aged around twelve years while interacting with the head of a school mentioned that he hated the subject mathematics and he meant what he said. When the head asked him the reason, the child answered that he felt very bad whenever he was unable to solve any problem and as it was on a number of occasions that he was not able to solve mathematical problems. The child was happy with only those things which he was able to solve easily without trying it again and again. Is this the right education? Should our children not learn how to strike a balance in a situation in which they feel to have failed in? Why should children be given to understand that failure is a negative result? Why can we not teach the children that everything they do is a lesson learnt whether they succeed or fail? They can be made to understand that each failure is a stepping stone to success. The people in a position to decide about the future of the children should seriously think if reducing the syllabus or diluting it has made any difference in the lives of the school going children? Is it good that every child is made to go to the next class even if he had not been able to learn ten percent of what was to be learnt at that level? It may appear to be good for a short term but in the long term this would be a problem for this child and the society both. The problem with many of us is that no one wants to be seen as doing or saying something which might require children to work hard. We do not want to be labeled as someone who does not care for the children though this attitude might be harmful for our children at a later stage. The parents and the teachers are worried about the immediate solution without looking at the future. The actions of today will make a lot of impact on the future of our children. I would like to be advised by my worthy friends and the readers whether the number of the suicide cases have increased or decreased despite our best of efforts to reduce the so called burden on our children. I am not saying that the educational reforms are not good for the children but doing that only in the name of reducing stress may not yield positive results in future. The need of the hour is to introduce more courses which can help children to opt for something of their choice and the same may not necessarily prepare them for the white collar jobs only. The vocational courses should be introduced at a school level and the children should be made aware of the importance of learning to help all the human beings. They should be allowed and motivated to look after sick people in the family because if they learn it today in the family then only they will do the same for others also. The real cause of the stress may not be the type of the syllabus or the examination system but the way teaching learning takes place in and outside the class. Also the expectations and the wishes of the parents and other family members forced on the children are to be held responsible for the unbearable stress and the tension caused to them.  We have all sympathy for the family of the people who leave them lamenting for their life but we must try to address the real cause of the same.  If we teach them the care and being responsible and think for others also, then this trend of ending the life untimely may be stopped or reduced to the minimum. If a person thinks and cares for the family members and does not think of the self only then he/she may not resort to such negative means of liberation of self trying to escape the difficult situations. Life is the most important gift given by God for all human beings and we do not have the right to take it away but to live it happily without worrying how much one has achieved or accumulated to be left behind.